"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

Istanbul’s Sublime Hagia Sophia.

The sublime Hagia Sophia Mosque.

Istanbul’s Sublime Hagia Sophia.

September 2020.

I think it’s testament to Istanbul’s vast scope of fascinating sights that I’m only now getting around to writing about what is arguably the city’s most spectacular mosque.

Sladja and I loved exploring the Turkish capital’s many mosques. Indeed I have already shared our experience at the stunning Suleymaniye Mosque. Moreover, I have an article in the works rounding up the many mosques we visited, including numerous under-the-radar structures that often escape the attention of the casual visitor. Watch this space.

Nuruosmaniye Mosque.

A quiet moment in the underrated Nuruosmaniye Mosque.

Read any online article about Istanbul and the general consensus is this: if you’ve only got time for a few mosques, one should head straight to Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque. As fate would have it, The Blue Mosque was under renovation during our Istanbul stay. Thus I have opted to relegate what little we managed to see to the roundup article. Bummer, we’ll no doubt catch it in its full glory next time.

The stunning Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

The Blue Mosque: Promised so much, delivered so little.

Happily, we did get full access to the magnificent masterpiece that is Hagia Sophia. Much like the Blue Mosque, it’s almost impossible not to stop in your tracks as its imposing facade comes into view.

Furthermore, one can’t help but consider its muddled history. As with The Chora, recently written up on these pages, Hagia Sophia started out as a Christian church before being transformed into a mosque.

Istanbul’s Sublime Hagia Sophia.

Istanbul's Sublime Hagia Sophia.

Istanbul’s Sublime Hagia Sophia.

Hagia Sophia is oooooold. In fact, the structure dates back to 537AD. And that was the third church built on this spot by the Eastern Romans. It remained an Orthodox church for some time, until of course the Ottomans steamrolled their way into Constantinople in 1453. I know…. you’ve heard this story in previous articles.

Visit Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

Istanbul’s Sublime Hagia Sophia. Pictured from the back on Sultanahmet Square.

As with many Christian edifices, they soon set to work changing it into a mosque. And so it remained a Muslim house of worship until 1935 when local authorities turned it into a museum. Later, in 2020, it was President Erdogan who gave the order for Hagia Sophia to revert to a mosque.

The history of Hagia Sophia.

Istanbul’s Sublime Hagia Sophia.

Standing as the world’s largest cathedral for over a thousand years, we were expecting to be impressed by the scale and beauty of Hagia Sophia’s sumptuous interior.

Giant entrance doors Hagia Sophia.

Istanbul’s Sublime Hagia Sophia.

We certainly weren’t disappointed as we entered the nave, where the immense beauty of the place comes at you from all directions. A heady rush of smooth marble slabs, gold chandeliers and meticulous mosaic patterns.

Not to mention the giant painted medallions in tribute to Islam’s most revered figures. Designed by the renowned calligrapher Kazasker Mustafa Izzet Efendi in the late 1840s, they honour Allah, Muhammed and Abū Bakr, among others.

Exploring the Turkish Capital.

Giant medallions Hagia Sophia.

Istanbul’s Sublime Hagia Sophia.

It is a truly breathtaking spectacle. Especially when one considers the heavyweight figures of history whose footsteps we were now retracing. For it was here that the Byzantine emperor Justinian I ordered the land’s finest architects to build him a grand Greek Orthodox church in the 6th century.

Hagia Sophia Mosque.

Istanbul’s Sublime Hagia Sophia.

And where, in 1453, Mehmed the Conqueror demanded the church’s transformation into a mosque immediately upon entering the building following his capture of the city. He then promptly stabbed one of his own soldiers to death after he tried to unearth a marble floor slab as a souvenir.

Marble floor inside Hagia Sophia Mosque.

Today’s marble floor. Mm, think I’ll leave it be.

However, this sense of history and culture was dampened somewhat by how horribly busy it was that day. As one of the world’s  most gorgeous mosques, Hagia Sophia is rammed with visitors every day all year round. Even, as we discovered, right in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic when three quarters of the world were hiding away at home.

Visiting Hagia Sophia during the COVID crisis

Istanbul’s Sublime Hagia Sophia.

Actually, we were somewhat fortunate with the crowds. After all, we’d managed to arrive early in the morning before the day’s insane queues kicked in. Thus it didn’t take long for us to gain entry. And, for the first ten minutes or so at least, we found our passage, views and photographic angles largely unencumbered. Just a touch of patience needed here and there.

Istanbul’s Sublime Hagia Sophia.

Inside the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

Istanbul’s Sublime Hagia Sophia. 

Unfortunately, this didn’t last long and soon large swathes of people began flooding in. The selfie crowds. The elbow-barging, phone-barking types with zero self awareness.

Worst of all, the organised tour groups dressed in uniform colours. Traipsing after a guide hooked up to a microphone, holding up one of those wretched tour company flags. Where’s Mehmed the Conquerer when you need him? 😉

Suffering the crowds at the Hagia Sophia.

Istanbul’s Sublime Hagia Sophia.

With the foot traffic rapidly increasing and the associated noise levels skyrocketing, it was interesting to observe people attempting to pray amid the hubbub. That’s some admirable patience and self discipline, sir.

A man praying in Hagia Sophia Mosque.

Istanbul’s Sublime Hagia Sophia.

In any case I was able to capture the mosque’s most masterly details simply by craning my neck towards the stupendous ceiling and domes. Of these, the artistic pinnacle is surely the dome that houses a number of Christian seraphim.

A painted seraph in Hagia Sophia.

One of the mosque’s painted seraph.

According to biblical text, these winged angels protect the throne of god. Painted in the 1340s, the Ottomans later covered the angels’ faces with metallic panels after the church’s conversion to a mosque. Interestingly, local authorities eventually removed those covers in 2009.

Winged angels dome mosaics Hagia Sophia

Cast your eye up… where the selfie crowds cannot roam.

Not all Christian images were on display, though. Up high on a semi-dome sits an incredible 12th century image of the Virgin and Child. Sadly it remained agonisingly elusive thanks to three carefully hung cotton sheets that ensure the mosaic was hidden from curious eyes.

Exploring the Turkish Capital.

Covered Christian images in Hagia Sophia

Istanbul’s Sublime Hagia Sophia.

In actual fact this recent development is an improvement. The mosaic had been completely covered by plaster for centuries during Ottoman rule. It wasn’t until 1935 that the American archaeologist Thomas Whittemore uncovered and restored it.

Covered Virgin and Child mosaic in Hagia Sophia

No peeking!

Back then President Ataturk gave Whittemore complete access to the building’s Christian art. The president and the archaeologist were close friends. In a diary entry from the time, Whittemore stated: “It was a mosque one day when I talked to him of my plans. The next day I arrived to see a sign on the door written in his own hand that said: The museum is closed for repairs”. 

Thomas Whittemore American archaeologist

Thomas Whittemore: “Who got da’ access?”

In order to see the full glory of Whittemore’s work, I had to jump online to see the restored Mary and Child mosaic. Not too shabby I’d say.

Mary and child mosaic Hagia Sophia.

Istanbul’s Sublime Hagia Sophia.

Spying a quiet side of the nave, Sladja and I retreated where we could ponder Hagia Sophia’s complicated relationship with Christianity and Islam. It was also a good opportunity for a photo away from the chattering masses. The subsequent shot reminds me of how I nearly always had a mask attached to my face and how I often forgot to remove it for photos.

Istanbul’s Sublime Hagia Sophia.

Visiting Hagia Sophia during COVID-19.

Istanbul’s Sublime Hagia Sophia.

It was only after the photo that we realised why this side of the mosque was so eerily quiet. Behind the wooden partition, we learned, lay the designated area for female prayer.

Quran and prayer beads

A lone Quran and some prayer beads in the female prayer area.

Historically, some Islamic traditions encourage women to pray at home out of public sight. In Istanbul most mosques allow females to enter. However, they must carry out their worship in a separate area. Sometimes a behind-closed-doors space. Elsewhere, as with Hagia Sophia, in a cordoned off area. That afternoon we didn’t see a single woman coming to pray. Just an elderly lady sat in a chair waiting for anyone who might show up.

Female prayer area Hagia Sophia.

Istanbul’s Sublime Hagia Sophia.

With the interior getting fuller by the second, we decided to head for the back exit. Outside, in the warm September morning air, we drank in the quietness of the leafy courtyard. It was a precious moment.

A warm afternoon in a leafy courtyard at Hagia Sophia

Istanbul’s Sublime Hagia Sophia.

On one brick wall, at the bottom of a tall grilled window, a modest sign informed us that the chamber on the other side houses a number of Ottoman sultans.

Mustafa the Mad.

Tombs of Sultans Mustafa I and Ibrahim.

Istanbul’s Sublime Hagia Sophia.

One of the men who rests here is Mustafa I who, due to the political instability of the times, ruled briefly on two separate occasions. Firstly in 1618, then again in 1622. Infamous for his mental instability, historians often refer to him as Mustafa the Mad.

Among his many (allegedly) erratic and eccentric acts, he regularly yanked people’s beards and pulled off their turbans. He also threw coins to the birds and executed the occasional friend on a whim. Mustafa died in 1639 after an epileptic attack. He was 39 years old. 

Mustafa the Mad 17th century Ottoman sultan

Mustafa I. You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but it helps.

Speaking of madness, as we left the complex we couldn’t help but notice the afternoon crowds. They had truly kicked in by this point, the line of waiting visitors running all the way down the square and snaking around a corner. Grateful to have avoided it, I allowed myself a smile as we left Istanbul’s grandest mosque behind in search of lunch.

Afternoon queues outside Hagia Sophia.

Istanbul’s Sublime Hagia Sophia.

Like this? Take a look at my series of articles on Istanbul.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

Leighton Travels logo travel reports and short stories.


  • Anna

    It’s just so damn spectacular! I think the day I set foot in here I will probably cry. They don’t make masterpieces like this anymore do they?

    July 30, 2023 - 3:22 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Anna, yes Hagia Sophia is pretty damn special. It has taken a bit of discipline to hold it back this long ha ha. No, they don’t make em’ like this anymore. People just don’t roll that way in modern times I guess. Thanks for reading!

      July 30, 2023 - 3:41 pm Reply
  • Little Old World

    I’ve never been to the Hagia Sophia, but have always wanted to go, so I really enjoyed reading your post. It’s such an enchantingly beautiful building and the mosaics, in particular, are superb. The crowds, though, don’t sound quite so appealing – it’s crazy it was heaving with people, even in the middle of the pandemic!

    July 30, 2023 - 3:53 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey hey, I’m glad you enjoyed this look at one of Istanbul’s heavyweight mosques. Hagia Sophia is a real beauty, but sadly it’s just one of those places where you have to deal with all the nonsense that comes with mass tourism. In the end it’s worth it though, thanks for reading and commenting!

      July 30, 2023 - 4:00 pm Reply
  • christinenovalarue

    Pour l’avoir visitée, Sainte Sophie est grandiose et magnifique

    July 30, 2023 - 3:59 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Absolument Christine, merci pour votre contribution!

      July 30, 2023 - 4:02 pm Reply
  • Travel with a Pen

    So happy to read and follow your adventures around Turkey! We had a similar experience when we visited Istanbul in 2021. Arrived for opening time at Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque and walked in without joining a queue + the Blue Mosque was undergoing renovations. I saw people queuing outside it when we left the area and couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for them. Everything was covered in scaffolding. We loved Suleymaniye Mosque as well.

    July 30, 2023 - 4:05 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Amarachi! Ah, so you also experienced Blue Mosque disappointment. We were gutted at the time, but in the end we saw so much of the city I could feel philosophical about the bits we missed. If we make it back, we’ll definitely have the Blue Mosque at the top of the list. Thanks for reading and contributing!

      July 30, 2023 - 4:30 pm Reply
      • Travel with a Pen

        Yes, we did, although I think Mark was more disappointed than I was. Lol. He had visited the mosque in the past and was excited for me to see it too. At the end of the day, I felt the same as you. Saw a lot and had an overall wonderful time there, that I almost forgot I never saw the mosque in all its glory! I’ll be looking forward to visiting in the future as well!

        July 30, 2023 - 4:39 pm
  • bronlima

    So much beauty to behold, which is then spoilt by the selfie image which then hides and blocks this very beauty.

    July 30, 2023 - 4:10 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Yup, this is the way of the world, it is both predictable and unavoidable. I wish I could be less bothered by these things in the moment, but it always succeeds in winding me up a little ha ha. We try to avoid crowds whenever possible but sometimes you just gotta roll with the punches. Happily, Hagia Sophia is worth it.

      July 30, 2023 - 4:46 pm Reply
  • Toonsarah

    Those crowds are really quite astounding considering you were visiting during Covid! I must remember to get here early if we visit some day as hoped. It certainly looks worth braving the crowds for, absolutely awesome! Its history, evolving from a church to a mosque, is an interesting contrast to places like Seville where the cathedral was once a mosque.

    July 30, 2023 - 4:30 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      We got quite a shock when we realised how busy it was getting inside the church. Especially as most of our experiences in the city that fortnight had been so quiet. Mm yes, the cathedral in Seville is the reverse process and equally fascinating. Thanks for dropping by, Sarah.

      July 30, 2023 - 5:39 pm Reply
  • kagould17

    Magnificent. Too bad the conquerors always have to try to erase what went before. The world is poorer for it. But, hey, there can only be one true religion, don’t you know, well, two really, power and greed. The mosque is a real work of art and you did well to get in early and see it before the rabid hordes descended. One thing still bugs me about the Muslim mosques, the fact that women are once again treated as second class citizens. Ahhh, the patriarchy. Happy Sunday Leighton. Allan

    July 30, 2023 - 4:35 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Agree with all your observations Allan from top to bottom. Sladja was particularly irked on the subject of female prayer traditions. I suppose we can look at it and say things have improved and continue to improve in many ways. But not enough of course. In any case the building is magnificent and the history fascinating, thanks so much for taking the time to read.

      July 30, 2023 - 5:43 pm Reply
  • Stan

    a great write up leighton. the history is complex the art astounding the crowds horrible and you navigated it all well with this thorough article. im still trying to wrap my head around the virgin and child cover up.

    July 30, 2023 - 5:49 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Stan, it is indeed a complex history that brings up conflicting emotions and opinions depending on one’s perspective. Cheers!

      July 30, 2023 - 6:13 pm Reply
  • Memo

    I struggled to imagine this as a christian cathedral and was trying to picture the changes. Then you mentioned it had been Greek Orthodox and I recalled a previous post where you described the difference between Eastern Orthodox and Western churches and their services. So once again you had answered my questions before I asked. Thanks. Truly loved the two photos of the lone man praying and the older woman sitting. In each the human was played low and toward the corner while the great bulk of the photo was huge space of the mosque. Very nicely done.

    July 30, 2023 - 6:47 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I agree that it’s kinda tough to visualise the place as a Christian joint. Thanks for the kind words re the photos, though I think perhaps you’ve given me too much credit ha ha, Still, I’ll take it all the same. Thanks, Memo.

      July 30, 2023 - 7:13 pm Reply
  • Mike and Kellye Hefner

    Truly amazing, Leighton. Your photos and explanations are wonderful, especially to someone like me who never knew much about the Hagia Sophia but loves to learn. I can’t imagine trying to actually pray there with the throngs of people. You and Sladja were smart to arrive early to beat the crowds. I guess the president was just throwing his weight around when – after almost 90 years of being a museum – he demanded it to be turned back into a mosque. I might have to Google that. Another fantastic post, my friend.

    July 30, 2023 - 7:00 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Kellye, your enthusiasm drives me to keep writing these kinds of articles. As for Erdogan, I’m sure he also had a personal angle for the reconversion. I shudder to think about all the politics that goes on behind the scenes with such decisions.

      July 30, 2023 - 7:17 pm Reply
  • wetanddustyroads

    Long time ago, when we were thinking about visiting Istanbul, Hagia Sophia was one of the places we wanted to see (I also wanted to see what a place that has one of my names looks like – Sophia is my middle name 🙂 ). It’s really beautiful (even with the crowds) – wow, those chandeliers. Looking at your last photo, it pays to visit places like this early in the day!

    July 30, 2023 - 10:11 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      So today is the day I learned your middle name! In this spirit of sharing, I can tell you that mine is David, after my dad. I’m sure you wouldn’t be disappointed by Hagia Sophia, especially if you time it right for early morning, ideally joining the queue a solid 3-40 minutes before opening time. Thanks for the catchup, it’s appreciated!

      July 30, 2023 - 10:17 pm Reply
      • wetanddustyroads

        David? It’s a more familiar name than Leighton (in SA anyway). I actually have three names (and Corna is not one of them 😀) … I come from an era where it was important to have family names.

        July 30, 2023 - 10:50 pm
      • Leighton

        Leighton is an uncommon first name in The UK. When I was in my early 20s I worked for government agency that had a census database. One afternoon I checked to see how many Leightons there were. Can’t remember the precise number, but it was under 10.

        July 31, 2023 - 5:07 pm
  • Kucia Kodes

    brilliant blogging my friend, I like how you go more deeper than most bloggers great history!

    July 30, 2023 - 10:17 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Kucia, that’s kind of you to say. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment! 🙂

      July 30, 2023 - 10:56 pm Reply
  • thomasstigwikman

    Hagia Sofia is certainly amazing. Too bad about the crowds. The various stories, the history of the church/mosque, Justinian I, Mehmed the Conqueror, Mustafa the mad, Thomas Whittemore, it was all interesting reading. It was a great blog post.

    July 31, 2023 - 12:53 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Thomas, I’m glad you appreciated the various characters that make up Hagia Sophia’s colourful backstory.

      July 31, 2023 - 7:26 am Reply

    It certainly is a wonderful place, Leighton, no matter how much the Western world is posturing over Erdogan’s decision a few years ago. One of those places that are not just wonderful to visit and see in detail, but one also where the different views of it from around the city are fabulous too. Iconic.

    July 31, 2023 - 1:15 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Mm, very much so. There are a few places in Istanbul that feel similarly omnipresent. I’m thinking Sulimaniye Mosque, Blue Mosque, Galata Tower and of course The Bosphorus.

      July 31, 2023 - 7:31 am Reply
  • Annie Berger

    I wonder if you and Sladja adhere to the travel philosophy of always leaving at least one more thing to do, place to see, restaurant to dine in, etc when you move on to another place? It’s impossible to see and do everything the first time that we like to reassure ourselves that, if there’s some we’ve missed we can see it next time. Although, at our ages, it’s more a philosophy as I don’t know when we’d be able to return as opposed to wanting to visit new places!

    Just thought that might make you feel better in terms of missing the Blue Mosque on your last visit.

    July 31, 2023 - 1:53 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Annie, I don’t think we have ever considered that philosophy per se. Most places we visit we kind of assume we’ll never be back, bar a few choice locations. At the same time I think we also get it that (as you say) it is impossible to see everything no matter how organised and motivated one is. As I’ve gotten older I think I’ve become more and more at peace with that. In the case of Istanbul we spent two weeks hitting the streets pretty hard for the most part. And yet it wasn’t until a few years later that we returned very briefly and realised we hadn’t seen the wonderful Museum of Innocence. It was cool to cross that one off. The Blue Mosque evaded us on both visits sadly but hey, maybe it’ll be a case of third time lucky. Istanbul is a handy stopover on the way “home” to Belgrade so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.

      July 31, 2023 - 7:43 am Reply
  • salsaworldtraveler

    Your photos are outstanding, Leighton. I really appreciated the detailed history and interesting facts about this fascinating mosque. I’ve visited a couple of times but never got such great photos or a good understanding of its history.

    July 31, 2023 - 3:15 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks John, comments like this make the time spent on crafting these blogs worthwhile. Cheers!

      July 31, 2023 - 7:45 am Reply
  • Little Miss Traveller

    We also enjoyed our visit to Hagia Sophia Leighton and your photos reminded me of its exquisite beauty. Hope things are working out well for you both and you are feeling settled.

    July 31, 2023 - 2:12 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for checking in, Marion. We are good here and progressing with everything. In fact, I have just this morning received my five year residency card. Now for Sladja’s residency…

      July 31, 2023 - 3:24 pm Reply
      • Little Miss Traveller

        That’s excellent news Leighton. Hope Sladja’s also comes through soon.

        July 31, 2023 - 5:03 pm
  • Travels Through My Lens

    Hagia Sophia is truly spectacular; the attention to detail is unreal. I can see why this mosque is so popular. However, the underrated Nuruosmaniye is pretty magnificent as well. Too bad about the hoards of tourists; I feel for the regular devotees, attempting to pray with the noisy crowds. Very interesting post Leighton. I hope your week is off to a good start!

    July 31, 2023 - 3:20 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Tricia, totally agree about Nuruosmaniye . In fact, I’ll be featuring Nuruosmaniye in a roundup article about mosques around the city. Most likely in a few months when I publish my second batch from Istanbul. All well here Tricia, hope your summer continues to go well. Hi to Terry!

      July 31, 2023 - 4:26 pm Reply
  • Mallee Stanley

    Having people in many of the photos emphasized just how huge the mosque was. Very impressive (but not the crowds). Only Sunni Muslims have a separate section for women. In Shi’a sects, women not only share an equal space beside the men, but in some sects participate as much as men in reciting prayers and other rituals before the congregation.

    July 31, 2023 - 5:45 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Mallee, it makes sense about Sunni muslims, as from what I understand roughly 90% of Turkey follows Sunni Islam. Do you know which Shia sects are this inclusive? From what I understand that’s generally not the case in countries such as Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, pretty much anywhere in Southeast Asia bar one sect in India. I remember when I lived in Qatar virtually no women were seen in mosques and there it’s predominantly Sunni Islam. Mind you, that was 20 years ago, it’s possible things have moved on.

      July 31, 2023 - 6:51 pm Reply
      • Mallee Stanley

        Ismailis are completely inclusive and there are many in Tajikistan as well as here in North America. I was once invited to a Ithnasheri mosque during one of the Eids. Everyone intermingled, but this was in Uganda and, like you more than 20 years ago so I don’t know about other countries where this sect lives. Most of the Arab world is Sunni and the world seems to view it as typically Muslim whereas the largest Muslim populations are in India and Indonesia and there’s a huge contrast between how women even dress in those countries.
        What an interesting life you’ve led and I’m sure you’ll continue to do. Looking forward to more of your posts.

        August 1, 2023 - 7:33 pm
      • Leighton

        Thanks for these thought-provoking contributions Mallee. I think I’ve had a fairly interesting 45 years thus far ha ha. And you don’t seem to have done so badly yourself!

        August 1, 2023 - 9:16 pm
  • notesoflifeuk

    Stunning architecture! Thanks for sharing your visit with us 🙂

    July 31, 2023 - 10:32 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading!

      August 1, 2023 - 8:26 am Reply
  • Rebecca

    I agree with you about the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia being the two main sites to visit, especially if one’s pressed for time visiting in Istanbul. I was lucky to have seen both during my time in town, and it’s true that the Hagia Sophia is dazzling inside. So much attention to detail and what really got me was how much light there was inside, which added to the golden glow of the mosaics and walls, thereby making it seem as if you were stepping into something holy. A place that could make a non-believer believe, that’s for sure! Thanks for sharing your adventures here, Leighton. 🙂

    August 1, 2023 - 8:29 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Absolutely, I concur with your sentiments. Thanks for reading, Rebecca.

      August 1, 2023 - 8:34 am Reply
  • grandmisadventures

    I am feeling a little torn between complete awe and wonder at the beautiful ambiance of the interiors and a disgruntlement that the ambiance would be disturbed by the selfie takers and color coded tour groups with the microphones….sigh, I guess that is to be expected in such a popular place. I would go early so I could quietly gaze around at the play of the light on the murals and angles of the buildings and soak it all in before the crowds came.

    August 1, 2023 - 11:22 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      I think an early morning visit before any other visitors came would be so magical. And just think, there is probably a caretaker and a cleaner or two who get to do just that every day. Thanks for visiting Hagia Sophia with us Meg.

      August 2, 2023 - 9:23 am Reply
      • grandmisadventures

        I would sign up for that job and be amazed every morning at having the place to myself 🙂

        August 2, 2023 - 7:24 pm
  • travelling_han

    I absolutely loved the incredible history and mixture of architecture in the Hagia Sophia. Your photos are beautiful, as always

    August 1, 2023 - 11:51 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for checking in, Hannah,

      August 2, 2023 - 9:24 am Reply
  • Lookoom

    J’ai visité Hagia Sophia au temps où c’était un musée, j’ai été impressionné par sa taille, son volume intérieur, pour une construction aussi ancienne.

    August 2, 2023 - 4:45 am Reply
    • Leighton

      J’aurais aimé le voir en tant que musée ! Merci d’avoir commenté et désolé pour mon mauvais français!

      August 2, 2023 - 9:27 am Reply
      • Lookoom

        I apologise, I meant to write in English, but I got it wrong. Your French is perfect, though 🙂

        August 2, 2023 - 12:18 pm
      • Leighton

        Ahh, I see. I just figured you’d seen my reply to Christine in this thread (she doesn’t speak English as far as I’m aware) and thought you’d follow suit. Anyway, whether it’s in French or English, thanks for checking in.

        August 2, 2023 - 1:05 pm
      • Lookoom

        Sorry, it wasn’t intentional; I’m always swapping from one language to another and sometimes it goes the wrong way. But I can see that you’re ready to embark on a bilingual site too, it’s a lot of work …

        August 2, 2023 - 3:25 pm
  • Diana

    It’s disappointing that people would behave so disrespectfully and cluelessly, disrupting the experience for everyone else. Nonetheless, it looks like you were able to find a way to admire the beauty of the mosque in relative peace. Thanks for the history lesson as well!

    August 2, 2023 - 11:34 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      People is as people does, I guess. I think those who manage the church should just ban the large group tours. It’s all so soulless and unnecessary for everyone involved. But of course they represent so much money…. never gonna happen. Thanks for reading!

      August 3, 2023 - 9:42 am Reply
  • WanderingCanadians

    It’s wild to hear just how old the Hagia Sophia is. Glad to hear it’s been preserved over the years as the interior is stunning. Good call on arriving early in the morning so you had a few minutes before it got rammed with other tourists.

    August 3, 2023 - 2:22 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Sadly it’s just one of those monster sights that rarely has a quiet lull. Even in the middle of the COVID crisis, as we learned. I guess we should be thankful that it wasn’t quite as insane as usual on the day we visited.

      August 3, 2023 - 9:54 am Reply
  • Lokeish Umak

    Wonderful building and history you present it so good. are you historian?

    August 3, 2023 - 8:18 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha ha, I am not an historian. Maybe if I was, I’d have a bit more money in the bank. Thanks for reading.

      August 3, 2023 - 9:46 am Reply
  • NortheastAllie

    Wow, what an interesting historical building!!! So beautiful, and amazing to think of its changes throughout time!

    August 4, 2023 - 5:54 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for checking in, Allie. 🙂

      August 4, 2023 - 9:36 am Reply
  • Monkey's Tale

    Good to know, go early. Since we’ll be there in August and there is no pandemic I’m sure it will be even more busy. But, Blue Mosque is something you have to see.

    August 6, 2023 - 5:44 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Absolutely Maggie. With Istanbul serving as such a key stopover in and out of Belgrade/London from Armenia, I have a sneaking suspicion we will have at least one more shot at getting into The Blue Mosque.

      August 6, 2023 - 10:14 am Reply
  • satyam rastogi

    what an amazing building your writing is very good

    August 6, 2023 - 9:34 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for the kind words Satyam.

      August 6, 2023 - 9:44 am Reply
  • Asha Gupta

    Very beautiful sight……

    August 6, 2023 - 1:25 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      It sure is, thanks for leaving a comment.

      August 6, 2023 - 1:27 pm Reply
  • Rehoboth

    Wonderful post as usual.

    August 6, 2023 - 5:53 pm Reply
  • Tanja

    I remember how awe-inspiring it felt to see it. I visited Istanbul 15 years ago…great city

    August 7, 2023 - 6:40 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for sharing your own memory Tanja, Istanbul truly is a powerhouse world capital.

      August 7, 2023 - 6:42 pm Reply
  • Lingo in Transit

    One of the major sites to see! Loved the historical information you put in too. I wonder what visiting would be like now after the pandemic.

    August 12, 2023 - 7:51 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey, thanks for your encouraging words! As for the crowds today in these post-pandemic times? I shudder to think 🙂

      August 12, 2023 - 7:54 pm Reply
  • Len Kagami

    Fantastic photos of Hagia Sophia, Leighton! During my visit in June, I couldn’t see those mosaics near the walls because the areas are reserved for prayers only. The Nuruosmaniye Mosque is no less stunning.

    August 22, 2023 - 7:52 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Len! Thanks so much for reading and saying hi. I think there’s always an element of luck when it comes to visiting Hagia Sophia. How busy it is, whether the mosaics are visible, partly visible, covered up and so forth. Nuruosmaniye Mosque is indeed an absolute beauty, I will be writing about it in a roundup article about Istanbul mosques later in the year. Cheers!

      August 22, 2023 - 8:38 pm Reply
  • David Linebarger

    Fantastic pics of one of the few places I must try to see in my lifetime.

    August 26, 2023 - 6:14 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading, David.

      August 26, 2023 - 8:54 am Reply
  • Hiraa

    One of my favourite places around the world. love this piece. Godspeed.

    September 2, 2023 - 1:40 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading and commenting Hiraa.

      September 2, 2023 - 8:08 am Reply
  • Sudhir Bhattathiripad

    Beautifully written. Great narration and pictures which speak lucidly….

    September 3, 2023 - 7:55 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading!

      September 3, 2023 - 8:40 am Reply
  • Zane Z.

    Hagi Sophia is a wonderful place. We last visited in July 2022.

    September 27, 2023 - 4:23 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for your comments Zane.

      September 27, 2023 - 9:43 am Reply
  • Zane Z.

    Such a beautiful place with so much amazing history.

    September 27, 2023 - 4:23 am Reply

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